The letter, which was sent this week to sports organizations in Hong Kong, targeted those without the word “China” in their names, including the 109-year-old Hong Kong Football Association and the Hong Kong Football Association, officials said. Hong Kong Rugby League. Only about a quarter of the 83 sports organizations listed on the commission’s website do so.
The IOC emphasized that the Hong Kong Olympic Committee uses “Hong Kong, China” in its name. “The name was adopted more than two decades ago,” an IOC spokesman said in an email to The Post.
Without committee membership, teams and their athletes risk losing opportunities to compete in the Olympics, Asian Games or other international events.
The renaming order isn’t just about the words on the jersey. In Hong Kong, sport has become a kind of political football: Although the former British colony was handed over to Chinese rule under the “one country, two systems” framework in 1997, its athletes compete as the Hong Kong team, flying the Hong Kong flag . Allow cities to maintain their own passports and currencies.
Local fans cheered for the Hong Kong team and at one point insisted on booing the Chinese national anthem at football games, so much so that Hong Kong passed a law in 2020 banning the Chinese national anthem. As fans erupted in celebrations after Hong Kong won a rare Olympic gold medal in 2021, a resident watching the game at a mall was arrested for disrespecting the Chinese national anthem, according to local media reports.
Hong Kong authorities are increasingly concerned about the symbolism of sporting events. Overseas organizers inadvertently played the pro-democracy protest song “Glory to Hong Kong” at a flag-raising ceremony, drawing condemnation from Hong Kong’s chief executive and police; the city government even tried to push Google to hide the song in search results.
Accidental revival of Hong Kong protest song angers authorities
The recent directive could lead to name changes for dozens of sports clubs. The city’s Olympic committee said in an email that using “Hong Kong, China” in the name “is in the spirit of Article 149 of the Basic Law,” referring to a vaguely worded part of Hong Kong’s “mini-constitution.”
The directive “was actually intended to strengthen national identity with China”, Say Tobias Zuser, Lecturer in Sports and Culture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Zuther pointed out that sports have become a platform for political expression. “During the football match with the Hong Kong representative team, the fans themselves cherished this opportunity to express their identity different from China,” he said.
Zuther said cheering for the area’s teams was a “last chance” to show local pride. At a football game, “10,000 people would be chanting ‘Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong,’ and that didn’t happen anywhere except in a stadium,” he said. Protests have been limited since mass pro-democracy demonstrations in 2019 and the passage of a national security law a year later.
When Hong Kong won an unprecedented six medals at the 2021 Olympics, “it really struck a chord with Hong Kong people at the time,” Zuser said. “I think whatever their political stance, they feel there’s some sort of investment in Hong Kong and a sense of pride that Little Hong Kong has athletes competing and winning those competitions.”